49ers vs. Seahawks: Thumbs up and thumbs down

Which way does the thumb turn for the 49ers' offensive line - tackle Jonas Jennings and guards Larry Allen and Justin Smiley in particular - punter Andy Lee, the decision-makers who let Julian Peterson leave, cornerback Nate Clements, quarterback Trent Dilfer, running back Frank Gore, San Francisco's third-down efficiency and the 49ers' special teams? Check inside.

Thumbs down: Instead of giving an emphatic thumbs down to San Francisco's entire offensive line, that unit played so poorly that they need to be singled out individually for their performance. We'll start with right guard Justin Smiley, who had as bad a game as anybody on that unit, and continues to look shaky as he plays for the big money in his contract year. Smiley was beaten for one of Seattle's six sacks, was flagged for two 10-yard holding penalties and also was penalized for a false start. Smiley complained after the game that officials made a judgment call on his blocking technique - penalizing him for holding when other officiating crews allowed his technique to pass as acceptable pass blocking. Sorry, Justin, that just sounds like an excuse.

Thumbs up: Punter Andy Lee continues to blast away at a prodigious rate. Lee once again played a big role in the 49ers winning the battle for field position with their special teams, averaging 54.3 yards on his 10 punts with an equally impressive 44.1 net. And he did it in the treacherous locale of Monster Park, where the winds notoriously play tricks on kickers. For example, Lee's counterpart - Seattle punter Ryan Plackemeier - managed only a 38.3 average and weak 27.9 net on his eight punts amid the same conditions. Lee started off his big day with a 71-yard boomer on his first punt and continued to assert himself as one of San Francisco's most consistent and productive players the remainder of the afternoon. Often backed up deep in his own territory, Lee also had punts of 60, 58, 58, 57, 55 and 54 yards as the Seahawks started their 10 drives after Lee punts, on average, at their own 26-yard line.

Thumbs down: Back to the offensive line, where left tackle Jonas Jennings watched Seattle linebacker Julian Peterson - the former 49ers star - fly by him twice for untouched, direct shots on quarterback Trent Dilfer, which accounted for two of Peterson's three first-half sacks. Jennings also allowed defensive end Darryl Tapp to push him back into Dilfer for another sack, though Jennings actually was doing a good job of holding up Tapp and Dilfer kind of drifted into that sack on his own. Jennings also was flagged for a false start and holding on a running play.

Thumbs down: On the 49ers decision-makers for allowing Peterson to get away. They had a choice to make when Peterson was up for unrestricted free agency in 2006, and they would have had to overpay to keep him - if not making him their franchise player again. Maybe they should have overpaid. Considering the way the team opted to overpay free agents this year - safety Michael Lewis, for example - Peterson might have been a bargain. He'd look great coming off the edge in San Francisco's 3-4 defensive scheme where nobody has yet to step up as a legitimate edge rusher. Now three seasons removed from his torn Achilles' tendon, Peterson is an impact defender playing at an elite level for the team the 49ers are chasing in the NFC West, and he probably would have remained in San Francisco for the right price. Instead, he's now killing the Niners with the three-time defending division champions.

Thumbs down: Back to the offensive line - again - where left guard Larry Allen's shaky pass-blocking cost the 49ers in a big way. On the game's third offensive play, Seattle tackle Rocky Bernard split center Eric Heitmann and Allen on a simple straight pass rush. Heitmann's partly to blame here, as he sort of passed off Bernard to Allen, but Heitmann had a blitzing linebacker to account for. Allen, meanwhile, was the man who needed to pick up Bernard, but instead he was slow to react and the 308-pounder ended up on Alex Smith's back, driving him into the ground and leaving San Francisco's starting quarterback with a Grade 3 separation of his right shoulder, a development that seriously threatens San Francisco's hopes for a winning season.

Thumbs up: Sure, cornerback Nate Clements allowed Deion Branch to get by him with a stop-and-go move that resulted in a 65-yard reception that set up Seattle's first touchdown. But Clements was a standout in the secondary the rest of the afternoon with two passes defensed and three tackles. And the next time Branch tried to get behind him on a deep route, Clements was with him step for step and reached in front of Branch to intercept Matt Hasselbeck's deep throw, a turnover that led to San Francisco's only points of the day.

Thumbs down: He was put in a tough situation, sure, but quarterback Trent Dilfer was supposed to do better when the team finally had to call on him in place of Alex Smith. After all, that's why the 49ers brought him in. But Dilfer couldn't get anything going against a defense that ranked 26th in the NFL entering the game, and he looked shaky throughout instead of displaying the steady hand of a veteran. He did not have much zip on his passes, and his two interceptions - each of which came when the 49ers had an opportunity to threaten near midfield - were lollipop throws that were virtual gifts to Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant.

Thumbs up: We can appreciate the way running back Frank Gore kept fighting and giving his all to get the offense moving and the 49ers back in the game. The Pro Bowler produced 66 percent of San Francisco's total yardage with 79 yards rushing and 42 receiving. Gore's effort was marred by two first-quarter fumbles in Seattle territory, losing one of them, but the Seahawks ultimately had to punt on each of their ensuing series. Since Gore was virtually the only thing positive about San Francisco's offense, he gets the upward thumb.

Thumbs down: There were a lot of bad numbers attached to the San Francisco offense on Sunday, but one of the worst was the 49ers' third down efficiency. The 49ers, who already ranked last in the NFL in that category entering the game, converted only twice on their 14 third down opportunities. That's a 14 percent success rate, folks. No wonder the offense went nowhere.

Thumbs up: San Francisco's special teams helped prevent the final result from being even more lopsided by dominating in that phase of the game. Besides Lee's great punting, the special teams got a blocked punt from Keith Lewis, successfully recovered an onside kick, produced San Francisco's only points with a 43-yard Joe Nedney field goal and, according to coach Mike Nolan, were 175 yards in the plus in terms of field position exchange.


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